MCU Retrospecticus: Black Panther

Black Panther (2018)

Original Review: Wakanda Forever (four stars)

I think Wakanda is Marvel’s most interesting idea. Like Clark Kent being the alter ego of Superman, an unassuming, landlocked African nation secretly being the world’s richest and most technologically advanced place is immediately exciting. On top of that, it is a tantalizing alternate reality where we get to see a country that has grown up peacefully and without the influence of colonization. It’s so intriguing that it’s fun just to think about. Black Panther is one of the MCU’s most popular films and definitely its most acclaimed in a big part because it realizes this world. The struggle between the two lead characters, T’Challa and Killmonger, represents alternate visions for the future of Wakanda, making the story more compelling than typical save-the-planet super heroics. But it all ends in a terrible CGI battle, perhaps the worst out of all Marvel movies. Here’s my pitch for how they could have avoided that.

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MCU Retrospecticus: Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Original Review: The Hammer of the Gods (four stars)

I’ve got a bone to pick with this movie, so let’s figure this out together. Here are the facts: Hulk took off in a Quinjet after helping defeat Ultron. Fury thinks that Quinjet crashed in the Banda Sea, but can’t be sure. Regardless, Hulk’s not around for Civil War. The next time the mean, green killing machine shows up, it’s in Thor: Ragnarok, where he says (yeah, he talks now) that he crashed his Quinjet on the alien world of Sakaar. So that’s weird, how did a thoughtless brute take a terrestrial aircraft across the universe?

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MCU Retrospecticus: Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Original Review: n/a

Hey, Beyonce put out a thing called Homecoming today, isn’t that a fun coincidence.

Spider-Man is Sony’s biggest movie franchise and they don’t mess around with it. Before Sam Raimi walked away from the series, the studio was planning so far ahead it had started hiring people to work on the fifth and sixth sequels to that original run. When that all fell apart, they still had a reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man, five years after Spider-Man 3. Before the reboot’s sequel flopped, Sony was said to be working on a massive list of spin-offs and sequels, apparently desperate to make a shared universe similar to the MCU. Even in the aftermath of that critical misfire, Sony had Tom Holland cast and in an MCU movie just a year after coming to an agreement with Disney. Spider-Man: Homecoming actually came out a year earlier than Sony was originally planning The Amazing Spider-Man 3 to be released.

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Welcome to My Nightmare


Last weekend, 17-year-old goth-pop star Billie Eilish played a historic set at Coachella. At least that was the headline I read on Yahoo News, which is where I assume everyone gets their information. I became aware of Billie Eilish last February when I saw her video for “when the party’s over” on MTV Live. Yes, you can still watch music videos on TV if you stay up past 1 AM and browse through 900 channels. The video is a melancholy ballad backed by faint piano where Billie wearing all white in a white room drinks a glass of black goo which then streams out of her eyes. Kids love that black goo, they’re like the new Tide Pods! The video is creepy and gross yet beautiful which is the best way to describe Billie Eilish’s music.

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MCU Retrospecticus: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Original Review: “Your Eyes Could Steal a Sailor from the Sea” (four stars)

I’m 99% positive I’ve written this before (and if I haven’t, I’m sure it comes through in my writing), but the media I love the most are the ones that put me in worlds I want to be in with characters I want to spend time with. That is a big part of why the MCU resonates so well with me, serialization breeds investment by making worlds more complex and characters deeper. I’m aware that’s not enough for some people, who expect when they go to the cinema to see something new, inspiring, or provocative. Critically, where I’m interested most in character, others would put a greater emphasis on storytelling, or originality, or craftsmanship (I especially ignore this one, rarely thinking to write about the technical side of film). Every once in a while, though, you get something truly sublime. Something at the nexus of all taste, something new, and moving, and built on continuity. Something so profound it instantly becomes an iconic part of the culture. Something like a talking raccoon tearing up as spaceships set off colorful fireworks to Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son.”

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MCU Retrospecticus: Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange (2016)

Original Review: Strange Magic (three and a half stars)

Michael Giacchino is an award-winning composer whose work you’d probably recognize. He scored a bunch of Pixar movies like The Incredibles and Up, the latter of which won him an Academy Award. He’s also worked on a lot of J.J. Abrams projects, from his shows, like Alias and Lost, to Mission: Impossible III and Super 8. Dude’s good, is what I’m saying. In 2016, Giacchino was brought in to create a new fanfare for the Marvel Studios logo and to score his first MCU movie, Doctor Strange. He rose to the challenge, creating a sweeping theme for the sorcerer supreme. The only problem? It’s strongly evocative of his Star Trek theme from seven years earlier. Like the movie itself, that theme is great on its own but underwhelming in its greater context.

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MCU Retrospecticus: Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Original Review: The War of Bucky Aggression (five stars)

Captain America: Civil War is the beginning of a shift in focus for the MCU away from common people. A division subtly starts to erupt between “enhanced individuals” and everyone else, so subtle I didn’t really notice it until Infinity War. It makes sense as a natural progression of the shared universe; the more supers there are, the harder it gets to justify screentime for normies. We are about eight years in at this point, the days of SHIELD keeping everything quiet in Phase One and the “you’re that guy from the thing in New York” obfuscations of Phase Two are over. Black Widow released everything SHIELD and Hydra had onto the Internet and Ultron scooped up a city and blew it up. It’s a super hero’s world, everybody else is just living in it.

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